Supreme Court upholds abolition of Odisha Administrative Tribunal by Centre
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the decision of the Union government to do away with the Odisha Administrative Tribunal through a notification in 2019, observing that the Centre had the power to both establish an Administrative Tribunal and abolish it too.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli passed the order after dismissing a petition filed by the Odisha Administrative Tribunal Bar Association, challenging the Orissa High Court’s decision to uphold the abolition of OAT.
Reading out the operative portion of the verdict, the CJI said that Article 323A of the Constitution did not preclude the Union Government from abolishing a State Administrative Tribunal because it was only an enabling power that empowered the Union Government to establish an administrative tribunal at its discretion on a request from the state government.
The CJI further said that the power to establish an Administrative Tribunal also included a power to abolish the Tribunal. The Union Government did not become a functus officio after establishing the OAT, he added.
Terming Article 323A as an enabling power, he said the same could not be construed as a mandatory provision.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Central government was correct in invoking Section 21 of the General Clauses Act to rescind the decision to set up the tribunal.
The Apex Court observed that the August 2, 2019 notification, which abolished the OAT, was not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, as the state government did not rely on any irrelevant or extraneous factors while requesting the Centre to abolish the Tribunal.
Terming it a policy decision, the CJI observed that the principles of natural justice were also not violated as the class of persons who were affected by the decision to abolish the OAT were not entitled to be heard. The decision was an exercise of administrative power and not a quasi-judicial power, he added.
It further said that the abolition of OAT was not violative of the fundamental right to access to justice as the Orissa High Court would hear the cases pending before the OAT. The failure the of Union Government to carry out judicial impact assessment before the abolition of OAT did not vitiate the decision because the direction passed in the Rojer Mathew verdict was of a general nature and did not prohibit the abolition of specific tribunals such as the OAT in the absence of judicial impact assessment, it added.
The Bench upheld the validity of the August 2, 2019 notification on the grounds that though it was not expressed in the name of the President of India, non-compliance with Article 77 of the Constitution did not invalidate a notification.
Noting that the failure of the Centre to conduct a judicial impact assessment did not vitiate the decision to abolish the OAT, the Apex Court directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a judicial impact assessment as directed in the Rojer Mathew judgment.
(Case title: Orissa Administrative Tribunal Bar Association vs UoI and Ors)